Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

Creating an inclusive climate

An inclusive classroom climate is one that embraces diversity and creates an atmosphere of respect for all members of the KU community. Feeling unsupported and isolated in the university environment puts students at a high risk for dropping out of college, particularly in the first two years of the curriculum. The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning argues that we can capitalize on the rich array of experiences, backgrounds and skills that diverse faculty and students bring to the classroom to the benefit of all. Here are some strategies that faculty can adopt to promote a sense of belonging, validation, and mutual respect in our classrooms.

  • Look for ways to increase student exposure to the diversity of human experience. Choose content and examples that address and model diversity, regardless of the subject. Although issues of diversity may at first glance seem more relevant to some disciplines than others, scholars in any discipline can discuss the way that different frames of reference and cultural assumptions affect the accumulation of knowledge.
  • Include issues of diversity as part of the course learning outcomes. Use images of people that represent various ethnicities, races, and genders, and use a broad range of analogies and examples. Make your classroom inspiring for underrepresented students. Discussions of the contributions of diverse scholars and providing role models representing a range of cultures, races,  genders, or sexual orientations conveys that everyone can be successful.
  • Create diverse groups or learning teams. When using instructor-formed groups or learning teams, avoid (when possible) creating groups that either isolate underrepresented students or create homogenous groups of students. Students who feel isolated within their team may lose the benefits of collaborative learning, and may have an amplified feeling of marginalization at the university. Provide guidelines for group interactions, check on group functioning through peer feedback, and intervene to shift or structure groups as needed.
  • Reduce stereotype threat. This term was coined by Steele and Aronson (1995) to refer to situations in which the performance of negatively stereotyped groups suffers when that stereotype is activated or emphasized. Strategies such as reframing a task with different language, deemphasizing the salience of the stereotyped group membership, and providing role models can help to counteract stereotype threat.
  • Include diversity and disabilities statements in your syllabus. Such statements communicate a commitment to diversity and inclusion from the beginning of the semester. They also provide an opportunity to set ground rules or a code of conduct for respectful and appropriate behavior.
  • Reflect on Your Own Background and Experiences. Consider how your own background and cultural influences might affect your how you have designed your course. Does the material provide an accurate representation of various perspectives? The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan provides reflective strategies for faculty to examine the impact of social identity on teaching.

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